“Chakra” is a Sanskrit word literally meaning “wheel.” These centers were named as such because of the circular shape to the spinning energy centers which exist in our subtle etheric body, the non-material energetic counterpart to our physical body. There are seven main chakras and they are located along the spine extending out the front and back of the body. Each chakra has a number of specific qualities that correspond to the refinement of energy from the base-level material-self identity, located at the first chakras in our pelvis, up to the higher vibrational spirit-level awareness at our crown. These energetic centers represent our highest level of integration. When we are disconnected between our physical self, our heart and our higher mind we become energetically split, like light sent through a prism. Our opportunity in studying the chakra system is to learn how to master each chakra’s essence and unite them all into a unified field of brilliance. As such, we re-unite our disparate parts into a radian light of full self-awareness.
The chakras are formed at the junction of three connected energy shafts that ascend the spine, one on each side of the central channel, the shushumna. The two lesser channels of energy — the pingala on the right and ida on the left — run parallel to the spinal cord. Chakras both take up and collect prana (life force energy) and transform and pass on energy. Our material bodies could not exist without them for they serve as gateways for the flow of energy and life into our physical bodies.
Each chakra is associated with a certain part of the body and a certain organ which it provides with the energy it needs to function. Additionally, just as every organ in the human body has its equivalent on the mental and spiritual level, so too every chakra corresponds to a specific aspect of human behavior and development. Our circular spirals of energy differ in size and activity from person to person. They vibrate at different levels relative to the awareness of the individual and their ability to integrate the characteristics of each into their life. The lower chakras are associated with fundamental emotions and needs, for the energy here vibrates at a lower frequency and is therefore denser in nature. The finer energies of the upper chakras corresponds to our higher mental and spiritual aspirations and faculties. The chakra of the heart ties them all together.
The openness and flow of energy through our chakras determines our state of health and balance. Knowledge of our more subtle energy system empowers us to maintain balance and harmony on the physical, mental and spiritual level. All meditation and yoga systems seek to balance out the energy of the chakras by purifying the lower energies and guiding them upwards. Through the use of grounding, creating “internal space,” and living consciously with an awareness of how we acquire and spend our energy we become capable of balancing our life force with our mental, physical and spiritual selves.
In order for us to become fully self-realized and in harmony with our physical and spiritual nature our denser lower energies need to be harmonized with the lighter energies of the upper centers. This is to say our survival and base tendencies have to be raised to incorporate a heart-felt spiritual focus expressed in all areas of our being. Indeed, each of the upper-level energies corresponds and refines a lower level counterpart: 7th with 1st (spirit to embodiment), 6th with 2nd (higher mind to relationship), 5th with 3rd (speaking your wisdom to personal empowerment). In the center of our being is full integration into the heart, the spiritual center and connection to the whole.
Each center has an integral function in creating our energetic balance. It is through the study of our energetic and physical being that we can create health, emotional stability and spiritual bliss.
The following chart maps out the primary qualities of each chakra, its corresponding location in the body, color, physical and emotional realms of influence, and its greater significance.